Review of Watership Down by Richard Adams

Adams has an almost scientific attention to the details of rabbit life and nature. He mentions more animal and plant species than Darwin did in “Origin…” and brings you right into the passing days and nights on the downs of England. I was continually fascinated by Adams’ anthropomorphism and fictional adventure that never betrayed his careful understanding of actual rabbit behavior.
I was driven by a continual ‘OK, where are we going with this?’ feeling spurred by the subtle mystery of Hazel’s ‘reluctant hero’ personality and budding leadership. But if you’ve started the book and get bored, press on! Part 2 is where things really pick up. By the end of the book I felt like Hazel, Bigwig, Fiver, Pipkin, etc. were all old friends. I’m also impressed by the Lapine language and when and how the rabbits use it. Great read if you’r in one of those ‘take me away to another world’ moods.

 

Review of The Character of Jesus by Charles Edward Jefferson 12-3-15

As Christians we argue over the best methods to evangelize. We debate over the Cessationists vs. the Charismatics, Calvinism vs. Armenianism, Creation vs. Evolution. I’ve been a part of many of these tense “discussions” and really can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone change their stance on any issue. For time I was reading a lot of Creationist literature and found myself astounded by the scientific evidence for Creation. I thought, ‘if only Evolutionists, atheists and the like knew this stuff, surely they would change their mind.’ However, in instances where I saw these ‘silver-bullet’ Creationist ideas being used, I was surprised to see the opponent not only unchanged, but seemingly even more stalwart in their stance. Finally I realized (with the help of other writers, etc.) that a mountain of evidence in any debate means nothing when someone has a presupposition toward something (they will simply interpret all evidences through the lens of their presupposition). So I wondered, ‘if the most amazing scientific facts can’t convince someone, what can?’. The answer, I believe, is something like this from this unheard-of preacher, published in 1908. It’s simply looking deep into this Jesus we claim to believe is the Son of God. It is a methodical, piece by piece study of every attribute of the Lord that we can possibly garner from scripture. When we quit practicing our Christianity looking horizontally human to human and look heavenward toward the Christ, our batteries are finally recharged, we are set ablaze and we actually WANT to share our faith. Books like this (and AW Tozer’s The Attributes of God) revive my love for Jesus.

Review of “Simplicity” by Mark Salomon 4-28-15

Mark demonstrates how his years in a Christian band, even in the punk scene, grew him to realize the entire industry called “Christian Music” or “Christian Record Label” or “Christian whatever” is basically a sham. Over his years in the band The Crucified he realized that he & the band were being put on a pedestal and expected to be pastors or perfect role models.

This book was highly interesting to me as I was intensely interested in “Christian Music” in high school and college and particularly in the scene that Mark’s bands & involvements were in (The Crucified, Stavesacre, Tooth & Nail Records, etc.) I was like the number one supporter of all Christian bands, radio, record labels, magazines, etc. Over time I realized that it would be far more beneficial if most (most, not all!) of these bands were just going out into the music industry the way any secular band would. Sink or swim, it would on the one hand be more challenging to musician’s talent and professionalism, and on the other, an infiltration of believers into the general music industry*. Sure, it would make it much more difficult for parents to make sure their kids only hear wholesome stuff, but think about the non-believers who would be exposed good music that was made by people who were, at the heart driven by The Spirit (even if they never actually mention Jesus in their songs or had alter calls at their concerts!) This is exactly the train of thought, I believe, that Mark is getting across in this book.

Also, this book is fun for someone who has listened to Stavesacre since the 90’s and has a Crucified album laying around at home. I loved hearing the back story of Mark’s journey in music. I hope he writes again because it would be great to hear more about Staveacre (this book was mostly about The Crucified years) I am also very curious about his involvement in CHATTERbOX and Argyle Park and he never even mentioned Outer Circle!

Altogether a great read, especially if you were ever into Christian music, more so the edgier stuff.

 

*I think in the decades since the 90’s there is more of trend in this direction.

Review of “Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist” by John Piper

Although I disagree with Piper’s Calvinistic views, I have otherwise found him to be a solid teacher of the Bible. I admire the authority and respect that he hold for the Word. That being said, his speaking/writing are little more dull to me than other favorite writers or speakers.
Desiring God’s over-arching theme is one I kind of thought I would agree on from the outset and finishing the book, I, for the most part still do agree. It’s kind of funny though, because I think Piper was addressing lots of critics of what he terms “Christian Hedonism” and so the reader automatically feels like they are opposing him and you’re being thoroughly debated even if you agree with him! I completely agree that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God BY enjoying Him forever”. I feel like using the term “Hedonism” (even though he gives good reason in the last Appendix) is a little off base. It seems he has garnered unneeded controversy over using that term when he simply could have said it another way.

Review of “It’s All Downhill from Here: On the Road with Project 86″_2-11-15

I’ve been listening to Project 86 since their first or second record and finally made it to see them live in 2004 (I think it was) At that show as I was purchasing a T-Shirt I think I met Andrew Schwab as he was promoting his new book. Finally over 10 years later I got around to reading the book. Initially I expected it to be something more philosophical, but as I read it, I discovered it to be more¬† of memoir of touring with P86. Andrew’s stories had me literally laughing out loud! I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at band life. I felt a kinship with Andrew as he described his frustrations with band mates and dating situations.

The real kicker that pushed this book from a fun 3 star read to a 4 out of 5 star rating was the last chapter titled “Why I Do What I Do”. He tells the ironic story of being judged by Christians before a show and then after the show helping a kid addicted to heroin find the hope to keep him hanging on to life. Its a moment that suddenly validates Project 86’s reason for being and inspires me to chase my dreams and use my talents to point people to Jesus!

Nickel’s Fortune by Stephen Wallace_reviewed 8-19-14

Nickkel's Fortune

A complex, layered story –¬† Stephen Wallace relates the tale of a simple, common man, Theo Devereaux, who works with his family business and their dealings with an elite, genetically modified race of people called the Syntaxians. Set in the year 3045, Wallace paints a clear picture of the world post “science-wars” in which the Syntaxians live in a scientifically achieved and segregated utopia. Regular humans are scattered through the remnants of Earth that is left in sort of a post-apocalyptic and abandoned ruin. Finally, the antithesis of the genetically perfected people is race of mutants called The Ferals, where genetic engineering has gone horribly wrong.
Amid the ongoing conflict between theses races, Theo stumbles upon a beautiful woman he calls Nikki, with no memory and a deep romance ensues. During their time together they are confronted with the undeniable horrors of the dark side of the Syntaxian’s scientific meddling and the Devereaux family decides to put a stop to the madness. The story that unfolds is unpredictable and takes you on a colorful adventure in Theo and Nikki’s relationship, meeting his family and traversing the rugged landscape.
Wallace’s future world is full of action and adventure, spiced up with clever gadgets and vehicles, vivid with exotic locales and colorful characters.
I loved this escape into a fantasy sci-fi world.

The Ball and the Cross by G.K. Chesterton _reviewed 4-8-13

Not knowing what this book was about I picked up because I read Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” and loved it. The introduction told me it was basically the fiction account of the fight between a Christian and and atheist and so I expecting it to be largely a debate between the two. Instead you are lead on the continuous journey of the two men who are trying literally duel it out with swords.
Chesterton’s writing is magnetizing and draws you in with a zig-zag and circle-around approach to describing a situation. He often begins a chapter by re-describing a character from a different approach leaving the reveal for several sentences in.
The story is very unpredictable and the scenes are rich and luscious, and I would suggest ready for the cinema.An entertaining and thought-proving read!

Book review: House by Ted Dekker & Frank Peretti- reviewed 1-21-13

I have never read any Ted Dekker but I’ve read a lot of Frank Peretti and this book has the typical Peretti issues that I have a hard time with. Most of Peretti’s stories have a long drawn-out beginning or middle that is full meaningless events, going from one character to another and back and forth without pushing the plot forward at all. House is the same: you could tear the front half of the book off and still get basically the same story. I always *want* to like Peretti but get frustrated with the way his stories develop. In my opinion House has WAY too many characters. There are 4 “good guys” and then there’s 3 sort of neutral, but ending up to be “bad guys”, then there THE bad guy, but he’s confused with another guy and then there’s one more “good guy”. And to compound all of that, all of them are duplicated at one point in the story. The story is fraught with scary movie/haunted house cliches. The story gets hard to follow, not because it’s deep, but because the 4 main characters get separated and then regroup and move all around the house so much that you lose track of who’s doing what (granted, part of the mystery of the house is that it is confusing the characters too). Each of the characters ends up confronting the sins & fears on an equal level leaving no one to be THE main character. It’s hard to really like/root for them. In the end there seems to be a kind of forced parallel to Gospel, which I respect but didn’t really like how it worked out.
I will say that House in some ways is unpredictable (although the overlying plot was pretty predictable). There were twists and turns that were surprises and some things were mysterious and interesting about the house.
Overall I’d say the authors could have pared the story down to just Jack and Stephanie in the house, and absorbed all the bad guys into just the Tin Man and made the plot sort of arch up to the climax instead of peak & valley to it.

Love Wins by Rob Bell – reviewed 10-19-11

Rob Bell seems to think that if we just rounded off some of the sharp edges of Christianity then everyone would like Christians/Christianity. One of Christianity’s “sharpest edges” is its claim as the only way which seems to say ‘some are in & some are out’. And out traditionally means Hell. If somehow “Hell”, the most off-putting word in all of Christianity, were maybe sort of redefined, if we could just maybe look at some verses just right, then maybe we could make it go away.
If this book is changing how you’ve previously viewed hell, here’s why I think it is dangerous: for God to be perfectly Just, there must be atonement for evil. For Christ’s death & resurrection to mean anything, He had to be saving us from a real and completely unavoidable payment for our own sins. God did this for us because He loves us which a two way relationship & for true love to exist, we must be free to choose our own way over God’s. In a nutshell, these are my feelings about the book. As far as the nature of hell and eternity, I have a lot more to say outside the scope of this review.

It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It by Craig Groeschel_reviewed 9-21-11

Kept wondering when the scary clown was gonna show up to eat people. Just kidding. This book is a great read for pastors but can really benefit anyone by helping to reveal the things a church has or does when they have “it”. I do feel like “it” can be defined pretty easily but I guess that would have circumvented the writing of this book!